The one question most writers I know dread is, "How do you come up with your ideas?"
Do any of us really know? I think most of the time writers just make up a convenient answer, mainly because by the time they've finally finished and sent off the manuscript, they've forgotten the thought process that lead up to the creation of the work.
That said, I believe I actually remember the germ of the idea that became Animal Instinct.
I was working at the time with a really smug, obnoxious, and egotistical young man, who continually asked me to write a book about him. Like anyone would care! Finally, after he asked me to put him into a book the gazillionth time, I said, "I'll put you in a book. I'll have you nibbled to death by squirrels." He laughed, thinking it a joke. And at the time, it was. But then my devious brain started working. What if someone WAS nibbled to death by squirrels? How would it come about? And how nasty and messy would the result be?
I bounced the idea around in my head for a while, added some witches and warlocks, and, of course, my characters from Pale As a Ghost, and Animal Instinct was born.
In honor of my co-worker, the poor sod who gets killed by squirrels in the book shares the same first name.
Blurb: Animal Instinct
Sequel to Pale as a Ghost
A Duncan Andrews Thriller
Private detective Duncan Andrews has the home-team advantage when it comes to solving paranormal crimes: His best friend, Gina, is a centuries-old witch. His dog is a zombie. And his boyfriend, Robbie, is a ghost.
Duncan certainly has his work cut out for him with this case. Someone’s been using the skull of a powerful wizard to control animals, and whoever it is, they’re not out to set up a petting zoo. For Gina, the case hits close to home—she knows just how dangerous it is, since the wizard was her father.
Just when he thinks they’re close to breaking the case, tragedy strikes, leaving Gina in a coma. Then, after years as a ghost, Robbie finally decides to move on, leaving Duncan to protect young Ashton Marsh, the victim of several strange animal attacks. Suddenly Duncan is working without his supernatural safety net. Without his friends, can Duncan defeat the power of Eleazar’s skull and keep Ashton alive? Or will the struggle for his life end in broken bodies as well as broken hearts?
Stephen's bio: Stephen Osborne has been an improvisational comedian, a pizza restaurant manager, and a bookseller. Other than writing, his addictions include British television shows, reading mysteries, and (a recent addition) Broadway musicals. He lives in rural Illinois with Jadzia the One-Eyed Wonder Dog.
Visit him at Facebook: http://facebook.com/stephen.osborne2 and Twitter: http://twitter.com/southbendghosts. You can contact him at leftyIN@yahoo.com.
HE SNARLED at me, blood glistening off his fangs, his eyes so bloodshot they might as well be red.
God, I hate vampires.
Especially what I call Twilight Wannabes, as this one undoubtedly was. Kids who, because of the books and movies that make being a vamp seem cool and the “in” thing to be, seek out real vampires to turn them so they can be sparkly and beautiful forever. Except it doesn’t work that way. Vampires aren’t sparkly. They smell like gym socks that have been left in a locker for months. And if they weren’t beautiful before they turned into one of the legion of the undead, they aren’t going to have some magical transformation and suddenly look like Robert Pattinson. If they had bad hair and freckles when they were living, they have bad hair and freckles as vamps.
This kid had pimples. Lots and lots of pimples.
He turned and ran to the door. Chickenshit vampire.
“Damn it!” I cursed aloud as I bolted around a table to pursue the bloodsucker. I hated having to chase vamps. They never ran out of breath, mainly because they didn’t breathe. I was in pretty good shape, but I had to carry my big old bag containing my vamp-killing equipment. It wasn’t that heavy, but it was bulky, so it slowed me down. I didn’t want the vamp to get too far, especially as we were downtown and near populated areas. I didn’t want him attacking and maybe killing some poor soul just because I didn’t find the vamp’s lair while it was still daylight and he was slumbering in his coffin.
I got to the door and out to the alley just in time to see the pimple-spotted vamp disappearing around the corner. I could hear noises from a large crowd a few blocks away. I cursed again and ran like hell down the alley. I had to get the bastard before he tried to lose himself in the crowd.
The crowd, I knew, were congregated around the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial at Monument Circle, smack dab in the center of downtown Indianapolis. The memorial was a huge spire dedicated to those who’d lost their lives in America’s wars. For some unknown reason, every year the city strung lights on the spire and had a ceremony to turn on said lights. Once lit, the limestone structure resembled a really tall Christmas tree, which is what the city fathers called it. The world’s largest Christmas tree. Well, the largest tree made of limestone.
Tonight was the lighting ceremony, and there would be hundreds of people ooh-ing and ahh-ing around the spire as the lights were turned on. And the vamp was heading straight for it.
The vamp’s name had been Edgar Nelson, and a few weeks ago he’d been alive and kicking. I don’t know who turned him, but after his death, Ed rose from his grave and promptly began nightly feedings on his girlfriend, Allison Larson. Allison’s mother couldn’t figure out what was happening to her daughter and, after exhausting every other option, hired me to find out.
Figuring out Allison’s predicament had been easy. She was pale, insisted on sleeping with her windows open even though it was late November, and was beginning to have an aversion to sunlight. That, and she had fang marks on her throat. Dead giveaway. In her restless sleep Allison would call out for her dead boyfriend, so I knew for whom I was looking.
To find him, I used my best friend, Gina. Gina’s a witch, and while she’s normally a healing witch, she’s lived long enough that she’s picked up a thing or two along the way. Gina put a drop of Allison’s blood on a crystal. There would be traces of Ed’s blood mixed with Allison’s, and the idea was the crystal would act as a homing beacon and lead me to the vamp, growing warmer the closer I got to him. It was a city-wide game of “you’re getting warmer… colder… warmer…” until I finally tracked Ed down to a disused warehouse downtown. Unfortunately I got there just as the sun was setting and Ed was climbing out of his coffin.
Now I had to chase after the bastard and make sure he didn’t do any damage.
I got to the end of the alley and was expecting to see Ed bolting down Delaware Street but was surprised to see him standing just outside the doorway of an apartment building. Just standing there. He turned and smirked at me. “Take one step towards me and I kill this guy,” he said, his tone full of gloating.
I hadn’t noticed the guy hovering in the doorway. He was about twenty years old, with unkempt dark hair and pale skin. Ed’s hostage was visibly shaking, even though he was obviously the athletic sort. The tight T-shirt he wore showed off his muscular frame extremely well. Really, can’t muscular guys go one size up? Do they have to be such show-offs?
“Don’t hurt me,” the fit guy whimpered.
I set my bag on the pavement and slowly crouched down. I unzipped the bag.
“I mean it! I’ll kill him if you make one more move!” Ed sounded convincing. He’d obviously seen all the vampire movies. Christopher Lee had nothing on him. Under other circumstances I’d have been worried.
I ignored Ed and rummaged in the bag.
“His blood will be on your hands!” Ed, with a hiss, reached out to grab the guy by the throat. The triumph on his face melted into confusion when his hand went right through the guy’s neck. “What the—”
A grin spread across Robbie’s face. “Sorry, dude,” he said, seemingly oblivious to the vamp’s hand sticking in his throat. “I’m already dead.”
The vamp’s eyes blazed with fury as he spun toward me. “What the hell is going on?” he demanded. When he saw me, his face, if possible, became even paler.
I smiled. “Decoy,” I said as I raised the crossbow I’d gotten out of the bag and pulled the trigger. The bolt struck Ed right in the chest.
One good thing about the Christmas tree lighting ceremony—nearly everyone was down at the Circle or snuggled up in front of their televisions watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Those who weren’t were treated to Ed’s ghastly wail as the shaft of wood pierced his chest. I couldn’t see anyone on the street, but I’m sure his scream could be heard several blocks away. Blood spurted from his mouth as well as his chest as he toppled sideways, clutching the arrow. He was dead—again—before he hit the pavement.
My dead boyfriend looked down at the corpse. “Not the smartest vampire in the world. He should have been able to tell the guy he was threatening was a ghost.”
I picked up my bag and shoved the crossbow back inside. Around us, I could see lights coming on in apartments. There was a couple who had just come out of a bar at the end of the block, but they were too far away to be able to provide a clear description of the guy who had just shot someone with a crossbow. “I’m just glad you’re back to the point where you can appear fairly solid.” I glanced over to where Ed lay. People were starting to open windows and doors. I was in the shadows, but I knew I had to get the hell out of Dodge quickly or I’d be arrested.
I could picture the scene at the police station. A burly but kind of hot detective trying to piece together the events while grilling me. “Let me get this straight. You dug up a corpse, hauled it downtown somehow without attracting attention, and then shot it with a crossbow.”
“No, he was a vampire. I killed it.”
Burly but hot detective: “You expect me to believe that?”
Me: “I’m an honest private eye. You can believe me. Say, why don’t you take off your shirt and I’ll explain things further.” Cue wonka-ja wonka-ja porn music.
Jesus, even my daydreams are getting erotic. I’ve really got to invest in more cold showers.
Across the road, some guy was standing in his doorway shouting, “Hey, what’s going on out here?” A little dog appeared at his heels, yapping furiously.
“Time to go,” Robbie said. He nodded toward the corpse. “I guess his parents will have to bury him all over again.”
I grabbed the bag and started off at a trot. “Serves them right for raising a Twilight Wannabe. Let’s get to the Circle and lose ourselves in the crowd.”